Short Draw Spinning on a Wheel

Short draw pinning, also known as the “inchworm,” is one of the most basic hand-spinning techniques. In short draw, you are working with a small amount of fiber at a time, allowing the twist from the wheel to travel into a portion of the fiber to create yarn. Short draw can be done with any type of fiber, and is easiest to control when you’re just starting out. There are three basic steps to short draw: pinch, draft and slide.

Short draw spinning on a wheelAll photos via Laura Chau

What is worsted?

Short draw is a worsted spinning method, where the fibers are all aligned parallel to each other. Although short draw generally creates a worsted style of yarn, you don’t have to use worsted-prepared (combed) fiber! You can spin short-draw style with carded, combed or any type of fiber you have. If you spin combed fiber in a worsted style, it can be called “semi-worsted” or “semi-woolen.”

Worsted-spun yarn is generally smoother, denser and stronger than other methods, because the pinching and sliding motion pushes air out from between the fibers while you draft.

Loop leader

The leader is a piece of spun yarn that you tie to the center of the bobbin, to attach your fiber to when getting started.

Here’s a good method for tying on your leader so that it’s secure and doesn’t slip around:

tying a loop leader

Use a strong, plied commercial yarn. Cut off a piece about 36” long, fold it in half, and knot the ends using an overhand knot. Take the leader to your bobbin and pull the folded end through the loop at the knot end to attach it to the bobbin.

Then, to secure it, make another loop in the leader close to the bobbin, and pass the folded end through again (half-hitch).

Now your leader is securely fastened and won’t spin around as you try to get going!

finished leader

Once you’ve prepped your fiber, thread your leader through the orifice of your wheel. Fluff up and thin out the end of a piece of fiber and thread it through the loop created by the leader, folding the end of the fiber back on itself. Add twist by spinning so that the wheel turns clockwise, until the leader and the end of your fiber have twisted together securely.

joining to the leader


pinching the fiber

With one hand, pinch the fiber supply near the orifice to prevent twist from traveling up the fiber. Begin treadling slowly, with the wheel turning clockwise as you draft.

Draft forward or backward

draftingDrafting zone between hands

With your other hand, lightly hold the fiber about 1-2” away from your front (pinching) hand. The distance between your hands will depend on the type of fiber you’re spinning, but is generally a bit shorter than the staple length of the fiber. There should not be any twist between your hands!

For a forward draft, your front hand is active. Use your back hand to fan out the fiber slightly, and pull the fiber toward the orifice using your front (pinching) hand. In a forward short draw, the back hand just holds the fiber supply while the front hand drafts the fiber, creating a zone of thinner fiber for the twist to travel into.

For a backward short draw, keep your front hand pinching the fiber near the orifice. Use your back hand to pull the fiber away from your front hand, fanning the fibers out a bit and thinning out the section between your hands.

Whether you draft forward or backwards, you should feel the fibers slipping against each other between your hands as you pull and draft. You can also do a combination of forward and backward, pulling your hands against each other, as long as you keep the twist out of the fiber supply by pinching with your front hand.

Slide and wind On

sliding the twist

Once you’ve drafted a section of fiber to the thickness you want, slide your front hand (while still pinching!) toward you along this drafted portion to allow the twist into the fiber. The twist will cause the fiber to compress and turn into yarn!

Spinning Yarn

When your front hand meets your back hand, move both your hands together towards the orifice to allow the spun yarn to wind onto the bobbin. Then move your back hand back to its starting position a few inches behind your pinching hand. Don’t forget to move your yarn guide up and down the bobbin as you spin, to wind the yarn onto the bobbin evenly.

Continue pinching, drafting and sliding a small amount of fiber at a time, and you’ll see why short draw spinning is called the inchworm!

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